The Bailout of Fannie and Freddie

by Joseph · 1 comment

in Miscellaneous

The United States of America has officially become a nation of bailouts.  With the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Sunday, September 7 they have also become the nation’s largest mortgage provider.  They now own (or back) around $5-6 trillion in mortgage loans, which is roughtly half of the existing mortgages in the U.S.  What does this mean for the taxpayer?  For the homeowner?  For the investor?  For the financial markets as a whole?

Expect To Pay More In Taxes

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are HUGE companies.  They alone service over half of the mortgages in the U.S.  They have trillions of dollars worth of liabilities as well.  In fact according to the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, William Poole, they have up to $6 trillion dollars in liabilities (as reported by the Wall Street Journal Online).  He believes that it would not be unreasonable to assume that they may end up taking a loss on as much as 5% of their loan portfolio which would provide taxpayers a burden of some $300 billion dollars.  While this would more than likely just be added to the national debt of almost $10 trillion dollars it would eventually have to be paid off and those who are ultimately responsible for this debt are the taxpayers.  You, me and your neighbor.

Mortgage Rates May Finally Drop

The rising level of defaults on mortgages over the past year or two has forced Fannie and Freddie to get more defensive and stop buying up so many mortgages.  This has led to an increased risk for mortgage originators, as they might not be able to sell off their risky loans.  It has also decreased the amount of cash flowing through the mortgage market and as such has had a strong effect on mortgage rates.  Because of the increased risk and the limited capital mortgage lenders have been forced to raise mortgage rates and keep them high.  Now that the U.S. has virtually guaranteed the success and liquidity of Fannie and Freddie mortgage originators are likely to have a less difficult time securing cash and selling off their loans.  This should lead to a drop in mortgage rates over the next six months or so.

Start Investing Now If You Haven’t Already

The markets rebounded on Monday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ending up almost 300 points (or 2.59%).  Investors are excited about the future now that they don’t have to worry about Fannie and Freddie.  If the Treasury Department and Paulson are right (and I personally doubt they are) then this bailout should fix everything.  After all the housing market is the primary cause of the “recession” that we are currently facing.  By shoring up the two largest mortgage companies and providing much-needed capital to the mortgage industry they’re hoping to end this downturn once and for all.  Things aren’t quite that black and white however but we’ll come back to that in the next section.  In the meantime for the purposes of investing they (the feds) may be right about one thing.  By taking over Fannie and Freddie they should increase investor confidence and lower mortgage rates.  This should have the effect of a declining bear market if not the return to a bear market.

The Financial System Is Nowhere Near A Full Recovery

It is true that the primary cause of the economic turmoil that the U.S. is currently facing is due to the uncertainty in the mortgage markets.  It’s also true that the decreased cash flowing into these markets due to Fannie and Freddie’s cutbacks was having a negative affect on the entire market.  However one would have to be nieve to assume that by taking over Fannie and Freddie and providing capital to the mortgage markets that this mess will clean up quickly.  The fact is that homeowners are not walking away from their houses because their mortgage lender was unable to sell their mortgage to Fannie – they are walking away because they are upside down on their house by a lot of money and they are unable to afford the payments.  Losses will continue to come.  The process may be slowed down and stopped sooner than it might have without this bailout (due to the increased affordability of purchasing a home) but unfortunately home values have not reached their lows, as most would-be homeowners are not ready to jump into the market even with today’s home prices!

The fact is that homes are STILL unaffordable in many markets across the U.S.  Homeowners are losing money and are bailing ship which is slowly decreasing home prices but there is probably quite a ways to go still before the buyers start to line up.  Bailout out Fannie and Freddie may help some, but as I stated already, the financial system is nowhere near a full recovery.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Diane Scott September 10, 2008 at 1:57 am

Excellent post! Unfortunately all too true. Why oh why can I never be in a housing market on the rise – I swear it is my fate. Hopefully this down turn doesn’t last for the next 10 years (reference San Diego).

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